the journey to paid professional performing artist

Posts tagged ‘ballet’


So, the past few months have not been stellar for me.

I have been dogged by a couple of not-so-fun productions and a series of unsuccessful auditions.  This would get any performer a little down.  There is also now the probability that I will be moving, which means learning a new area and building my theater self again.

But thanks to one Ballet Hispanico master class that I (thankfully!!!) decided to go to at the last minute, I think I’m back!

To be a performer, you have to be stubborn.

You have to go to every class, every audition, practice every day, even if you don’t want to.

The past few months have been a total failure.  And I have learned some things from the stress of the not-so-good times.

I am getting paid to act in a murder mystery dinner theater now.  I guess that means I’ve reached my goal of being a paid performing artist.  Though I’d like to be paid to dance, but this is a start.  It’s very interesting and very different, and I can’t say I’m used to it yet.  Interacting with an audience can be nerve-wracking, and acting improvisation is something I’ve never done.  Dance improvising I could do all day, but make me open my mouth and it’s not so good.  But I think I’m learning.  It’s just not consistent performances so it’s difficult to get into a rhythm like I do with stage shows.

I have learned that I like a more hands-on director.  After experiencing both, I definitely like one that has a clear picture of what they want and doesn’t compromise.  Now I have to learn how to work with the other kind and not be miserable.

Most importantly, I have learned in the past few years what I have to do to get established in an arts community.

1)  Audition for community and professional theaters.

2) Keep taking classes wherever and at as many places as I need to get what I need.

3) Send my materials to all the production companies in the area.  (I know I haven’t done this so far, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I think it would be helpful.  They are always looking for new faces.)

I think it’s imperative to do this as quickly as possible.  The more you get out there, the more you’ll be informed about what’s going on in your new arts world and be able to take advantage of it.

The other thing I’m going to do is find a voice teacher ASAP.  I have a new place full of people who don’t know I’m not a confident singer, so if I can brush up on that aspect of my performance, I should be golden.


role repeaters

Cathy Rigby is still Peter Pan!

Let me preface this by saying that I am not whining.  I’m just making an observation.

This is something that I want to make performers aware of.  Especially if you are just starting out in the performing artist world and are out of high school.

In almost every show I have been in, at least one of the leads has done the role before.

From a performers perspective, this is unfair.  Especially in the world of community theater, one might think that opportunities would be given to those who haven’t had the chance to perform a certain role.  But this is a one-sided view (you know how I love my community theaters and all the opportunities they have given me!!!).

I think if I were a director, I might cast at least one veteran as well.  That is one person that you really don’t have to worry about.  And in community theater where you may have a number of novices, that would be one less thing to worry about.  Community theaters need to sell tickets too to keep afloat, so they need to put on good shows.

As a performer, I don’t know if I would ever want to repeat a role.  There are pros and cons.  If it’s a role you really loved, I can see wanting to do it again.  It gives you the chance to be the star again.  But it’s a different cast and director, and may not be the way you remembered it or you may not like the interpretation.  I guess if nothing else, it would be an interesting experience.

always learning

I’ve been thinking about the many auditions I’ve done now, and I think I’m finally learning something that I never thought of before. 

When you are taught about interviewing for a job, they tell you that the interview is about you finding out  if the company is right for you, as well as the company finding out if you are right for them.  It’s the same as auditions!

An audition is the interview of the performing artist.  The casting director is looking to see if you are a fit for their show.  And if they’re good they are looking to see if you’d fit with their organization as well.  But you can tell if you would like to be part of the show as well.

With a dance audition, you can feel if the movement being given feel right in your body.  You might look good and get through the audition, but if it feels like it will ruin your body you can turn down the job anyway.

With theater you can see if you like the show or not.  If you are unfamiliar with a show, Wikipedia and previous reviews only go so far.  Once you get to the audition and start reading or singing from the show, that when you’ll get the best idea of if you like the show or not.  If it ends up you find the writing or style annoying, it might not be the show for you.  Also, you might be able to tell where the director is going with how the characters are going to be portrayed, and if his ideas really bother you, this might not be the production for you.  (However, it this regard remember, he is seeing the whole where as you might be looking at a narrower vision.  The whole might end up fabulous, see this post.)

You can also test out the other people who are auditioning.  If you are in a room where you do not appreciate many of the other people’s talents, then you might not want to be part of the show.

So don’t be in a bubble.  Learn everything you can from the audition.  And you just might be able to make a few friends along the way as well!

Radio City Music Hall Rockette Lindsay Howe interview before SF Bay Area debut – San Francisco theater |


This interview has great information in one place:

Radio City Music Hall Rockette Lindsay Howe interview before SF Bay Area debut – San Francisco theater |

If this link is no longer working, here is a .pdf of the webpage:


take your ballet class

me as Giselle

It’s like medicine for some, therapy for others.  However you look at it, it is necessary.

You hear of people dancing without it.  To have a long and successful professional career, ballet is the foundation.  There are always exceptions, don’t think they are you!

Ballet aligns the body like no other form of dance.  Because of its very clear framework in which the body must move in order to create the correct poses, it strengthens the core and back muscles like nothing else.   Never mind giving you strong hips, legs and feet, gorgeous port de bras (arms), the list goes on.

You’ve also heard that in order to break the rules, you must know the rules.  Ballet is the rule.  All the jazz and modern styles are breaking those rules, either with positions or weight placement.  In order to be able to do all those crazy moves, you have to know how to get yourself back to stable when you’re done.  It takes strength and knowledge of your body, which is what ballet gives you.

I remember Christopher House teaching a ballet class at Toronto Dance Theatre, a modern company.  He said, “I can’t work with you if you don’t have proper placement.”  That’s pretty strong.

In the two summers that I have been attending the Rockette Summer Intensive, each year the dancers ask what they can do to prepare so that they can get into the Rockettes.  Part of the answer is always daily ballet class.

For me, ballet is medicine.  In Crazy four You we dance so much jazz and tap, and the Follies Girls character is to stick out the chest and butt.  If I didn’t keep up with ballet, I’m sure my back would start to give out.  I need that strength to hold myself straight while dancing.  And the strength to hold the untechnical positions without hurting myself. 

Ballet terminology is used as a universal frame of reference.  Our Crazy for You choreographer uses it to let us know what body directions she wants us in.  If you don’t know ballet terms, you’d have no idea which way to face.  And how many of you have been in a modern or jazz class where you did plies and tendus in the warm up?  Any Luigi or Limon student should be raising their hands right now 🙂

So I am so glad that when I was four and wanted to tap like Shirley Temple, the only dance school in town would only let me take ballet to start.  If I hadn’t had that foundation, who knows where I would be now!

well-rounded dance background

Even if you’re auditioning for a ballet company, you don’t truly know what is going to be asked of you once you get into the studio.

Twyla Tharp and Mark Morris use jazzy and modern movement in their “ballets.”  I’ve been to cruise line auditions where they ask if you dance on pointe.  I’ve heard of Rockettes who perform all the Rockette numbers, and also dance in the ballet Nutcracker section of the show.  To make yourself marketable, so have to know as much as you can.

Any good dance school, even if it is a ballet conservatory, will have strong classes in jazz, tap and modern, and maybe even offer hip hop, ballroom, anything else to supplement your dance study.  Not only does this familiarize the dancer to these forms, it makes a dancer who is more willing to try new things.  We’ve all seen the girl in class who is too self-conscious to try something new.  She looks more the fool for making a big deal out of it than if she had just done it.

Of course, I have an example of where trying new things makes you better, but it’s along thread of experiences.  It begins with me going to a summer dance program that I thought was going to be ballet.  Toronto Dance Theatre is a modern group.  At first I was really nervous.  I had exposure to modern dance, but in the context of a ballet conservatory program.  This was the opposite.  We had ballet class, but in the context of supporting the modern dance.  It was only a two week program, and by the end I wasn’t totally comfortable with what I was doing, but at least I was doing it to the best of my ability and giving it my all.

The story continues with me taking a hip hop style jazz class.  I’m of the age where hip hop wasn’t around when I was young.  The frist time I tried it was after college, and I felt like a ballerina trying to do it.  But the class fit into my schedule, so I kept taking it.  Usually when you’re older you can get more afraid to try to new thing and hurt yourself or look stupid.  But I think I’ve gotten past that point to realize that if I want to make it as a dancer, I have to throw myself into everything 100%.  So I kept on with the hip hop.

That lead to a paying (for a while at least) job on a dance team.  Believe me, I am neither the hip hop or cheerleader type.  A friend of mine was leading the team and she convinced me to try out.  The team was an arena football team in its second season, so not a huge turnout at the audition.  So, for whatever reason, I did get on the team.  More dance that I’m not comfortable with!!!  But it wasn’t difficult at all, so all I had to get over was in my head.  If the pictures and videos have anything to say, I think I got over that.  And probably got better at hip hop sexy style as well.

While I prefer the glamorous Rockette style, they are a rare dance troupe to keep performing that way. 

me dancing badly (on purpose!) as Gloria

After the moves that the dance team had me doing, playing a sexy secretary in Bye Bye Birdie was nothing.  And now I’m a ditzy Follies Girl in Crazy for You.  Although not paying roles, they are paving the way, giving me great experiences and experience, so that hopefully I will be paid for being on stage someday.

The moral is, even if you are concentrating on being a ballerina, please take other forms of dance as well.  They can only help you.  And if you want to be anything other than a ballet dance, please take ballet.  You’ve heard that it is the basis of all dance.  It’s true.  More on that later, I’m sure…

dancer in-studio behavior

If you’re a dancer, then you either have been or will be in this situation at some point.  There is another dancer in your group who thinks they know everything better than everyone else and feels like they need to correct what they see as lacking.

It’s very annoying, and something I’m not proud to say I used to do.  But I am happy that I figured it out while I was still young, so hopefully I’m not that annoying one any more.

From my perspective, I did it because I felt like the teacher or choreographer wasn’t catching mistakes.  I wanted the piece to be the best it could be.  I didn’t realize that the choreographer can’t possibly fix everything at once, and that he or she was choosing what they felt was the most important first.  Teachers also will do this.  They have a progression in mind and know that students can’t fix everything in one class.

Some choreographers like to get the work out there fast, and then go back and fix it.  Some like to get it out perfectly, not necessarily quickly.  Some plan out every detail, and others make it up on the fly.  Now that I’ve had more experience, I can see and respect others’ artistic processes.

When I teach class or am choreographing, I make sure that the dancers know to ask questions only of me.  I don’t want to create know-it-alls.  I think it can start by others asking questions of the same person all the time, the one they feel always knows the answers, and that person feels elevated because of that.  Especially when choreographing, only the choreographer knows what they want, so why ask anyone else?

Of course, if the choreographer assigns someone to know the piece inside and out, and tells you to ask questions of that person, that’s who you go to!

But sometimes, no matter what, this personality pops up.  So how do you handle it?

I’ve seen dancers turn into the know-it-all types by receiving praise.  All of a sudden they feel like they are the ones who know what they are doing because they got reinforcement from the choreographer.  Not noticing that others have received praise, too, I’m guessing.  There is nothing you are going to be able to do about their perceptions on this.  Try to keep the peace, you have to work with these people until the end of the show.  There is no point in confronting the person, for they probably don’t perceive their actions as you do.

If it’s just an attitude thing, I would ignore it and be nice.  If the person is giving you unsolicited feedback, verbal or physical, take it up with the choreographer or director.  Hopefully what they will do is make an announcement that it is the choreographer’s job to make corrections, and that no one else should.  However, be prepared that the choreographer will call this person out, so keep in mind your specific examples of troubling behavior.  If you can give specific examples, then the troubling person will know exactly what you mean and better be able to change their behavior.

Even if your unhappiness is addressed, the behavior might not change.  Habits are hard to break.  If you can ignore the person without getting boiled inside, that’s fine.  Or, you can gently remind them that correcting is the job of the choreographer, and if they have a problem with something, that’s who they should be going to.

So what if you’re the one who has been pointed to as having this behavior.  Or you’re just noticing that this is something that you do.

A good way to change is that if you see something that you perceive other dancers to be doing wrong, ask the choreographer for clarification of the step.  That way, everyone will be on the same page.  Who knows, you could be the one who is wrong!

Working with people, in any setting, can be difficult.  But realize that the way you approach it makes all the difference.  Being anything but friendly and cooperative can isolate you from your fellow performers, which makes putting together a cohesive show not as fun and successful.  Relax and realize that in the end, everyone wants the same thing.  A great show!